New communication networks

Advances in network technology expected in the coming years include WiFi 6, 5G and the increasing use of IoT devices.

Network interconnection is vital for communication, because networks are a platform for the services we need. They support the use of text, graphics, video and other formats in a way quite similar to how they are used between people.

Users of a network can share resources through various media and systems and can run programs on other computers. It consists of three levels:

  • Application software: communicates with network users, allows information to be shared.
  • Network software: establishes protocols or standards for computers to communicate with each other.
  • Network hardware: material components that link computers.

You already know about the most common types of networks:

  • Local Area Network (LAN)
  • Wide Area Networks (WAN)

By 2019 it is expected that technologies will change; with this there will be new opportunities to improve the functioning of companies and their respective systems.

Wi-Fi 6, also called 802.11ax, is an upgrade to the current Wi-Fi protocol, offering improved efficiency across all bands. It also increases the density of devices that can coexist in a single space.

It is expected that in the future the experience will improve both for office workers, who can have a more reliable means of communication and for operators of IoT devices, who will be able to pack more low-power elements in a space with fewer access points.

In smart telephony, the high-speed 5G network, which will increase the battery life of smartphones, is eagerly awaited. In companies it will be a convenient option as a WAN connection to connect branches online; in this way it will compete with wired connections that have better performance.

In local area corporate networks, it will allow for private configuration. As 5G rolls out, it will also open up new possibilities for IoT applications and systems and sensor battery life that could last for years.

These are critical technologies for businesses; however, they are also a challenge for the administration of networks, systems, users and the development of the necessary devices.


Design of communication networks

In order for network users to access the resources of other computers, it is necessary to equip them with special tools: data transmission functions are carried out thanks to hardware that requires a network interface card (nic), a nic driver and the software module that controls it.

Even in the simplest networks there are problems in transmission, caused by encryption, synchronization of devices and the data itself. Transmission speed and network usage, i.e. capacity and bandwidth must be taken into account in order for these problems to decrease, as they alter transmission over channels and physical media.

In order to design a network, the topology, switching mechanisms and link behavior must be chosen. Each has advantages and disadvantages that will solve the needs of companies to a greater or lesser extent.

For example, in networks with partial connectivity, the connection is established by circuit or packet switching and it is necessary to solve the data flow, the definition of the route, the sending of data in each node along the path and the multiplexing of the flow.


Network topology

It is the way in which the set of computers or devices within the network are distributed, organized or connected. The three most common types are:

  • Star: has good flexibility to increase the number of computers connected to the network. Problem diagnosis is simple. Everything is connected to a central controller; if any computer fails, the network continues without problems, but if the controller has problems, it affects the entire system of the network.
  • Ring: allows for an increase or decrease in the number of stations without any difficulty. Speed depends on the flow of information, so the more stations the network tries to use, the slower it will be.
  • Bus or channel: can easily increase or decrease the number of stations. In addition, if any node fails, the network continues to function.


High-speed data transmission networks: SD-WAN

Network design, primarily connections from branch office to Data Center, makes no sense when so many business applications are now running outside the Cloud and so many end users rely on an open internet connection.

Traditionally, corporate networks have been based on centralized control, routing  and security. Almost all network traffic in a large enterprise will be moved in the near future to a primary data center, in which there will be interconnections with other branches, systems and where security applications, such as firewalls, will fall within the responsibilities of these large-scale networks.

For these and other reasons, companies are moving to software-defined wide area networks: SD-WAN. It allows networks to route traffic based on centrally-managed roles and rules, regardless of traffic entry and exit points and it is done completely securely.

For example, if a user in a branch office is working on Office365, SD-WAN can route their traffic directly to the nearest Cloud Data Center for that application, improving network responsiveness for the user and reducing bandwidth costs for the business.

In addition, SD-WAN will make it easier for machine intelligence to participate in network management, further reducing bandwidth expenses and improving security. Cisco estimates that next year, traffic on these networks will grow by 500%.


Industrial communication networks

The term industrial communication network corresponds to the field devices that act directly on the production process. Their characteristics are due to the needs of real-time interconnection, at the same time that they are able to resist electromagnetic noise and environmental conditions.

They are installed in different environments:

  • Factory: used for office networks, accounting, administration, sales, managing orders.
  • Plant: interconnect manufacturing modules and cells with each other and with other departments.
  • Cell: interconnect manufacturing devices operating in sequence mode.
  • Fieldbus: replace wiring between sensors-actuators and control elements. As a rule they are small, with a maximum of 50 nodes and use short message traffic for control and synchronization between devices.

In no case do they transmit large blocks of information; however, according to the amount of data to be transmitted, they are divided into:

  • high-level buses
  • device buses
  • actuator/sensor buses


Industrial network communication protocols

The general agreement to build networks is client-server. The client is the PC user, who requests a service from a server connected to the network. This approach is the most common because it allows for the separation of functions that were previously a whole.

A protocol stack is a set of protocols for hierarchical interaction between nodes in a network. Lower layer protocols are often implemented using combinations of software and hardware systems.

The best-known protocol stacks are OSI, TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, NetBIOS/SMB, DECnet and SNA.

  • OSI: they are characterized by sophisticated and ambiguous specifications. It represents an ideological basis for the standardization of computer networks but the leading position belongs to the TCP/IP protocol stack.
  • TCP/IP: used for Internet communications. This protocol stack has four layers: application, transport, internetwork and network interfaces. The correspondence between TCP/IP and OSI layers is conventional.

The TCP/IP protocol stack was designed as an initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense more than 20 years ago to ensure connectivity between the experimental ARPAnet network and other networks. TCP/IP was implemented as a set of protocols for a heterogeneous network environment.

  • IPX/SPX gave the name to the entire protocol stack. The network layer of this stack is associated with the routing protocols: RIP and NLSP.
  • NetBIOS/SMB was designed by IBM and Microsoft. The physical and data link layers of this protocol stack use the most popular protocols, such as Ethernet, Token Ring and FDDI.


Network communication standards

In the multilayer structure, the modules of the upper layers use the tools of the lower layer as an instrument to carry out their tasks. This model is the most efficient because each layer supports two types of interfaces: those for service with the upper and lower layers in the node's network tool hierarchy and the peer-to-peer ones, with the tools of the layer itself, running on the remote node. This last interface is known as a protocol.

In addition, depending on the status of the organization, the standards are classified into:

  • Owners
  • Special committees
  • Domestic
  • International

The most significant advance in terms of standardization in the field of computer networks is the standardization of communications protocols.